Gator drags child into water at Disney's Seven Seas Lagoon

Edited: June 15, 2016, 4:28 PM

As a parent, this is nightmare fuel. And after everything that's happened in Orlando this week...

Here's the story, breaking now from the Orlando Sentinel.

Update: The Grand Floridian was showing a movie on the beach tonight, and it appears that the toddler and its family were watching the movie when the attack happened. Various eyewitnesses quoted on Twitter reported seeing a 7-foot gator.

Update 2: At a 1am (ET) press conference, the Orange County (FL) Sheriff said that 50 law enforcement personnel were on the scene, looking for the 2-year-old boy from Nebraska, who had not yet been recovered. He said that multiple witnesses saw the incident and that the parents entered the water trying to rescue their child, who had been playing at the edge of the water.

Update 3 (Wed. morning): Still no sign of the child, although authorities have found four gators so far. Ferry service to and from the Magic Kingdom has been suspended for the duration of the search.

Update 4: We've added to our theme park safety tips: How to stay safe in a theme park: Respect the local wildlife. People from outside Florida don't know the risks associated with gators. So we're going to try to spread the word.

Update 5: Authorities have recovered the body of the boy, now identified as Lane Graves, the son of Matt and Melissa Graves of Elkhorn, Neb. We send all of our condolences to the family.

Walt Disney World President George A. Kalogridis issued this statement: "There are no words to convey the profound sorrow we feel for the family and their unimaginable loss. We are devastated and heartbroken by this tragic accident and are doing what we can to help them during this difficult time.

"On behalf of everyone at Disney, we offer them our deepest sympathy."

Replies (40)

June 14, 2016, 8:17 PM

This is so terrible. I can't believe that this possible at Disney. I've stood on those beaches many times and would never think of an alligator. Especially after all that's happened to Orlando in the past week, this is just terrible.

June 14, 2016, 8:22 PM

So sad :(

Edited: June 14, 2016, 8:26 PM

Yeah, I can attest that there are alligators in pretty much all Disney waterways, just as you'll find gators in just about any significant body of water anywhere in Central Florida. They're like deer in the Midwest. Just a lot more dangerous.

June 15, 2016, 3:47 AM

Local reports are indicating the child was in the water when the attack occurred. Developing.

June 15, 2016, 4:55 AM

I am sadden to hear this happen and I really hope the kid is ok. What a terrible thing to experince.

Not to minimize this tragedy at all, but I am actually surprised this has not happened before. There are a TON of gators in FL. Is this the first gator attack at Disney World?

June 15, 2016, 5:04 AM

This probably the last thing you would expect while vacationing in WDW. The family is reportedly from Nebraska. I doubt they were as aware of the dangers of 'gators. Just horrible.

Edited: June 15, 2016, 6:17 AM

Oh No.....
Pluse - Christina Grimmie - Now a Gator Attack...
Orlando you are breaking my heart.....

I honestly thought Disney would hunt and remove and gators near or on their properties.

And the lawsuit will be coming... A huge law suit...
You have to protect the patrons...
Can't you have fences around the waterways to stop gators from entering?

Edited: June 15, 2016, 7:06 AM

In Florida, asking Disney to stop alligators from getting into the lakes is like asking Disney to stop squirrels from getting into trees.

June 15, 2016, 7:02 AM

I imagine that this also will force Disney to create a defined perimeter around waterways currently open to guest access around the resort. And to post more explicit warning signs. After all, many people from outside Central Florida don't understand that if you're looking at a body of water in Orlando, you can just assume there's a gator in it.

June 15, 2016, 7:27 AM

Thanks TH and Robert. We only vacation in Orlando and have no clue how many Gators there are.

But you can set traps and check them weekly to remove large gators form active areas in Disney... This is their best Hotel in Florida...

It is truly sad this happened...

June 15, 2016, 12:48 PM

Now there will probably be fences put up all around the lakes. Completely ruining the ambiance created by Disney. All because a family could not be smart enough to not let their toddler wander into the lake and get eaten by a gator. While very sad, I have little sympathy for the lack of common sense.

Edited: June 15, 2016, 1:38 PM

Wow, I try my best to be respectful of everyone in our community, but... gimme a break, Barry. The family likely had no idea that there could be a gator on that beach.

June 15, 2016, 2:13 PM

I lived in Far North Queensland for a while, where crocodiles pose the same threat, but mostly just to those in unfamiliar waterways, so I can see this from the local and outsider perspective.

When you live with a danger in your "back yard" you learn how to manage the risk... Most I'm sure wouldn't think twice about a bucket collecting rainwater for example, live in the tropics and you see it as a breeding ground for mosquitos carrying awful diseases. A Floridian might naturally shy away from unfamiliar waterways, but a visitor from Chicago for example doesn't see waterway as a threat (in the same way at least)

However, this is an area where Disney is a victim of its own success. It has a reputation for family fun in a safe environment - be it a movie, a theme park, Disney vacation, cruise, etc, parents expect a sort of walled child safe garden, so to speak, so perhaps aren't even looking for threats at all.

Edited: June 15, 2016, 2:52 PM

Disney lawyers and OSHA are so paranoid about fall safety in California, sometimes where no accident has happened in 60 years, but they can't keep a child safe from alligators in Florida? I don't buy the line that it is an isolated incident. There are alligators in the water, people! Post warnings, put warning information in the hotel rooms, construct fences, do whatever it takes to keep people safe! Sure, warning about alligators may break the Disney magic, but this is a tragedy that people will have a gut-wrenching reaction to, that could have been prevented. Movie night at the beach? Not a good idea. The beaches themselves create a false sense of safety, non-Florida residents would probably not think of gators lurking about. Beaches should be closed off when not guarded. Or if you are going to have an event, have life guards on alert to watch people getting too close to the water.

June 15, 2016, 4:07 PM

The loss of a child for whatever reason is a heartbreaking situation. Having said this, and while at the same time expressing full understanding and sympathy for the family's immeasurable grief: If the child had died in a car accident on WDW property (equally tragic) would the story have been the lead on every network news program? For that matter, had the alligator attack been somewhere in Florida other than WDW property, would it be getting this level of attention?

June 15, 2016, 4:24 PM

I was kind of wondering a similar thing TH. What if the kid just walked into the Seven Seas Lagoon and just drowned. Same security issues, same sad result.

I am still trying to wonder how this could be the one and only gator attack at Disney World. That shore has stayed mostly the same for 45 years and now there is a tragedy.

I by far do not know all the details, but this seems like a very freak accident or a series of unfortunate events.

June 15, 2016, 4:34 PM

You may disagree, Robert, but my opinion is what it is. You preach theme park safety consistently on this site. This family did quite the opposite of that and ignored signs stating no swimming. I'm sorry but we continue to give a pass to a lack of parenting in my opinion. Watch your kids, use common sense, and obey all posted signs/warnings. I will not deny that a young life was lost tragically and that is very sad. I just won't pretend that so much more from the parents could have potentially prevented it.

June 15, 2016, 6:32 PM

TH, I think it's just a matter of all these tragedies being so close to one another. Orlando hasn't had these many incidents within a short period of time since 2009.

Having said that, this is still an accident and there should be less finger pointing and more collaborating on how to overcome this.

June 16, 2016, 6:32 AM

TH - a car accident is an accident a Gator attack that was preventable is going to make the news... Huge difference.

Barry you are gutless human being - "All because a family could not be smart enough to not let their toddler wander into the lake and get eaten by a gator" - This line makes me wish it was you who got "eaten"....

And this is my opinion, weather you agree or not is irrelevant...

PS - Out of respect for my friend Robert I held back a bit...

June 16, 2016, 6:44 AM

Brian Emery: "TH - a car accident is an accident a Gator attack that was preventable ..."

I Respond: So car accidents are not preventable? I see.

Edited: June 16, 2016, 7:37 AM

"So car accidents are not preventable?"

Sometimes not when caused by the other driver, just like the other alligator.

The beaches at Disney's lagoons are man-made. What was Disney thinking? It never occurred to them that guests might think a beach shoreline is safe for wading. Even in a real beach, there are warning against sharks. There is no such warning about alligators. Worst, there are no barriers.

June 16, 2016, 7:34 AM

A. Car accidents are not preventable in the sense that I can prevent any and all car accidents I could ever be a part of. If another car hits me, there is not much I can do.

B. NO parent can say they never had a toddler sneak of on them for a short time. Perhaps I don't understand how this incident occurred.

As for the clown complaining about ambiance, shame on you.

June 16, 2016, 7:37 AM

Not sure what Anon is trying to say. So I will try a different approach: A two year old is killed in a car accident on Disney property because there is a road that needed a repair (pothole) making Disney somewhat culpable ... Again, the child is gone, does it become the lead on all three network news shows?

I doubt it.

June 16, 2016, 7:42 AM

Also, if they attack had happened anywhere else in Florida, would the story be the lead on all three networks.

I doubt it.

Edited: June 16, 2016, 7:45 AM

TH: Are alligator attacks as common as car accidents? No, but alligators are quite common in ponds in Florida as cars are common on streets. Thus the network news shows are quite interested in such a story especially for a one in a million chance it happened at Walt Disney World where nothing dangerous ever happens except for this one incidence involving a 2 year old child.

June 16, 2016, 8:10 AM

Hey TH - I know you respect Disney but you have to admit, this was preventable.

Simple trapping of these large gators on a weekly basis would have most likely prevented this... Swamp people show on History channel do this all the time.

Plus if folks knew Gators were being caught weekly, they would be more aware ponds and lakes at resorts.

And what the heck was Disney doing showing a movie on the beach area where they knew gators were close by?

Sheraton shows movies outside at Pool side not lakeside...

So yes, preventable... Unlike the car who smashes into me from behind, unpreventable.

June 16, 2016, 10:35 AM

Watching the news of this event, they were showing videos of families letting their kids play on the beach and even kids splashing in the water near the shore. Despite the no swimming sign the area is so inviting this could have happened to anyone. It is a man made lake made to look like a beach with no danger signs about wildlife. I think some people are too quick to judge the parents. In Roberts story "How to stay safe in a theme park: Respect the local wildlife", a gentleman who says he is from Ireland I think summed it up perfectly:

June 16, 2016 at 3:08 AM
"I have to disagree with some of the above comments. I have come to Florida on a number of holidays from Ireland. While I would be aware of the possibility of a gator in any of the ponds and swamps near any of the roads and highways, that would not have been my view at a Disney Resort. Manmade sandy beach leading down to the water I would of presumed this to be a safe recreational area with an obvious danger that the water is deep hence the sign. The sign should of warned people of the danger not just to do with swimming. I don't for example have a "how dare anybody tell me what to do" mentality. Love florida and very much respect the rules it is my favourite place to be. My heart goes out to the poor unfortunate child and his parents at this very sad time."

June 16, 2016, 10:39 AM

My parents are upset anyone would let there kids play in that nasty water to begin with. While I understand the sentiment, I feel it is not really the parents fault.

I think the fact they advertise it as a swimming beach with sand, lounge chairs, and beach towels, it sets a false sense of security. Disney might be somewhat liable here, despite the posted warning signs.

June 16, 2016, 12:12 PM

Thanks for holding back Brian. Whew.

June 16, 2016, 2:15 PM

Bob Sehlinger from the Unofficial Guides here. Amid all of the hysteria and accusations precipitated by the tragic death of the 2-year-old child, I'd like to present some facts and an opinion.

Alligators can be found in almost all bodies of water in Florida including those at Walt Disney World. Though alligator related deaths are very rare (they don’t ordinarily prey on humans), both adults and especially children can be attacked while swimming, wading, or sitting near the water's edge. Alligators are most active when feeding around dusk and the hours of dark. If you happen to see an alligator in a non-threatening situation (like when fishing), give it a wide berth and by no means feed it. Feeding alligators will lead to them becoming habituated to humans and almost guarantee their presence where you don't want them.

In my opinion, because of the great improbability of alligator attacks, Disney was in no way negligent because they didn't specify alligators as a danger on their signage. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a state resident’s odds of being seriously injured in an unprovoked alligator incident are roughly one in 2.4 million. To put it in perspective, according to the National Safety Council, the odds of being killed by lightning are one in 174,426, and the odds of being legally executed are one in 111,439. The likelihood of non-residents visiting Florida being injured or killed by an alligator is much smaller, less than being killed by a vending machine.

I laugh sometimes at the litany of warnings at various Disney attractions, but posting signs listing all of indigenous Florida wildlife species that could potentially harm you is just ridiculous(wasps, bees, hornets, bears, venomous snakes, raccoons, bats, bobcats, cougers, spiders, mosquitos, ticks, and on and on). Just know that they're there and use common sense. Really people, you don't need signs and fences.

June 16, 2016, 2:22 PM

"one in 2.4 million" That kid was one. One too many.

Hey, what's the odds of getting massacred in Orlando? Just wondering.

June 16, 2016, 2:49 PM

You argue common sense, but the area looks like a beach on the ocean... Where you'd swim.

If you make a large rat poison pellet, place a stick on one end and make a colorful wrapper that says Danger Rat Posion, you're eventually going to be dealing with a death with some kid or adult who thought it was a lollipop.

Regardless of your opinions of the parents, Disney did make this (and several other) areas look like it was a beach for swimming.

June 16, 2016, 4:29 PM

I guess my point was why blatantly ignore posted signs that say no swimming? I am in no way trying to imply Disney is completely off the hook here. They have gone to great lengths to create an atmosphere that looks like it's meant to be a great place to relax on the beach and enjoy the water. My rush to condem the parents may have been harsh for some and clearly not welcome to the group on this site.

Edited: June 16, 2016, 5:26 PM

They weren't swimming. They were wading in a man-made beach. There's no stay out of the water sign either. The beach is like an alligator feeding station.

Edited: June 16, 2016, 10:20 PM

Barry Zuckerkorn, how exactly is walking on the edge of the water the same as swimming? You're condemning the parents for being near the water, when Disney only said "no swimming", they didn't say anything about staying away from the water or that the possibility for gator attacks are there. They also had a movie night on the beach, considering that alligators are amphibious creatures and do come on land, maybe they shouldn't make it so people can stroll into an area where gators may lurk. They actively encouraged their guests to go on this "beach", but didn't say anything about staying far away from the water. Even still that's doing the bare minimum, because as stated alligators do get out of the water and they can move pretty quickly on land. Long story short, Disney shouldn't have encouraged people to be on the beach or make it possible for their guests to walk so close to danger.

June 17, 2016, 5:44 AM

My first gut reaction was exactly that: "who let's their kids play in that nasty nasty water?!!?" I wouldn't even do it myself (especially with a pool so close). But then, upon further research I saw that many people were doing it too and these parents probably thought it was ok as well. I also figured maybe Disney got "cocky" that their alligator program was working since nothing happened in 45 years but then I found out about another attack that happened 30 yrs ago at a similar beach. Disney needs better signage and restraints for sure...

June 17, 2016, 7:06 AM

As I said, Disney has to protect their patrons while on Disney properties. And they failed, yes the parents also failed.

But there will be lawsuits and Disney will lose. Probably settle out of court for $10M and we will not hear about it.

This whole thing is sad....

Edited: June 17, 2016, 7:47 AM

I agree that at some point having signs for every little thing can become ridiculous. But as Anon Mouse, Court E and even Mr. Zuckerkorn has pointed out, Disney: "have gone to great lengths to create an atmosphere that looks like it's meant to be a great place to relax on the beach and enjoy the water. " I think when the parents have their day in court they are going to find Disney was negligent. Will this stop me from going to Disney, no, it was a freak accident. But now that it has happened, Disney needs change their rules about their beach area (Maybe have it closed during prime alligator feeding times) and inform their guests of the danger on their, and I stress this, man made beach. It wasn't like the family was out in the middle of the wild or even a beach on the actual ocean. Also, I have been seeing reports Disney had been warned about alligator problems - Here is the title of the article so google it if like: "Disney repeatedly warned about ongoing alligator issues before attack, reports say" or "Alligator attack victim's family "devastated" by boy's death at Disney"

June 17, 2016, 8:59 AM

"John Hammond: All major theme parks have delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked!

Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, but, John, if The Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don't eat the tourists."

I'm glad they don't have cannibal pirates. Alligators will do.

June 17, 2016, 2:44 PM

I thought its common sense that alligators and brain eating amoebas live in the lakes of Florida, man made or not.

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